Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

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chewybrian
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by chewybrian »

GE Morton wrote: January 6th, 2022, 8:54 pm
Ecurb wrote: January 6th, 2022, 8:30 pm
One thing is clear: private property limits freedom, autonomy, independence, liberty, self-determination, self-governance, and sovereignty.
Oooh, G. A. Cohen redux.

Yep, property rights limit "absolute" freedom. So do all other rights; e.g., your right to life constrains my freedom to kill you. But then, no libertarian or classical liberal has ever advocated absolute freedom. They only advocate the freedom to do as one pleases, PROVIDED one does not inflict losses or injuries on others. And property rights (nor any other real rights) do not limit freedom so conceived.
The actual point of this (mostly co-opted) thread is the opposite of what you say. Property owners wish the entirety of the country to be built for their needs. No place is left for the homeless to survive where they are not effectively or literally criminals. How do they use the restroom, when restrooms are for 'customers only'? Where do they sleep when public sleeping is outlawed?

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GE Morton wrote: January 5th, 2022, 9:03 pm First, provide some sound and convincing moral arguments as to why Alfie should provide housing for Bruno, i.e., showing that Alfie has some obligation to do that.
Why in the world would you need someone to explain to you why it is morally correct to feed the hungry? Neither is it a head-scratcher to most of us to give reasons that we should house the homeless. Most of us have both empathy and humility, even if the amount of either varies. We both feel sorry for the person in need and admit to ourselves that we may be the one in need tomorrow. Therefore, we wish to construct a society with some safeguards for everyone, because we care about people and may benefit from this insurance at some point. There is no empathy or humility in your artificial universe of libertarianism. I can't explain anything to you when you have clearly conflated this flawed, sanitized model with messy reality.

Here is Adam Smith, explaining that we should tax the luxuries of the wealthy to supplement the necessities of the poor. I imagine you are very fond of Adam Smith when his ideas suit you. Does his reasonableness in this instance offend you?
"The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich . . . . It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

"It must always be remembered, however, that it is the luxuries, and not the necessary expense of the inferior ranks of people, that ought ever to be taxed."
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by Ecurb »

GE Morton wrote: January 6th, 2022, 10:53 pm
Ecurb wrote: January 6th, 2022, 9:43 pm
GE Morton wrote: January 6th, 2022, 8:54 pm
Yep, property rights limit "absolute" freedom. So do all other rights; e.g., your right to life constrains my freedom to kill you. But then, no libertarian or classical liberal has ever advocated absolute freedom. They only advocate the freedom to do as one pleases, PROVIDED one does not inflict losses or injuries on others. And property rights (nor any other real rights) do not limit freedom so conceived.
"So conceived"? Freedom is never "so conceived".
Huh? It obviously has been so conceived, since it's just been articulated. Not only by me, but by virtually every other classical liberal philosopher. What a silly claim.
Oh come off your high horse, GE. My objection is clearly correct. FREEDOM is not "conceived" as being limited, it is only ADVOCATED inasmuch as it is limited. That's all I meant by "freedom is never 'so conceived'." Your obsession with definitions should have made that obvious to you.
Ecurb wrote: It is merely the case that freedom often should be limited -- all laws (and rights) limit it. The difference is that laws are passed with the consent of the people -- so at least one has a say in how one's freedom is limited.
Really? You suggest that whether others should be free to kill you should be determined by a public vote? You're advocating mob rule?

I don't think you really understand the concept of rights (or perhaps of moral constraints generally). If you have a right to something, or to do something, then morally speaking, you may keep it or do it no matter what "the public" wants or thinks. Popular decision-making is itself constrained by individual rights (that is the purpose of the US Bill of Rights).
You are prevaricating again, GE. This is gettng tedious. I advocated nothing of the sort. Instead, I merely pointed out a difference between laws in a democratic society limiting freedom, and other things limiting freedom. How that "advocates" for the elimination of "rights" is unclear, unless, of course, you want to prevaricate and misrepresent my position for the sake of "winning" an argument. I made this clear by the words "at least".

All rights allow one person to exert certain controls over other people. That is their purpose. And, no, it does not "resemble slavery," since the latter consists in forcing others to labor. No rights, including property rights, force anyone to labor, unless pursuant to a contract or to compensate for an injury inflicted.

You're wandering the the woods, sir.
This is ridiculous. Slavery (in addition to forcing others to labor) legally allows the owner to restrict the slave's freedom of movement. So do property rights. Therefore, property rights resemble slavery. This is obvious. It's not my fault that you have a one-track mind.

You are correct that I mentioned Medicare because it fit the criteria by which you object to tax dollars being spent on housing the homeless. That's obvious, too.
"Someone who claims a 'right' to the services of other people or to the products of their labor (absent some sort of contract or agreement among them) is advocating slavery. Ok? *
Hmmm. Is being a citizen of a country a sort of contractual obligation? Are citizens who take advantage of the security the nation provides obliged to follow its laws? If so, aren't they obliged to pay taxes to support housing for the homeless, if the elected officials decide to spend the tax money thusly? Of course (as you and I both agree) it's possible for the Government to embark on programs of which we disaprove. They might want to build low cost housing, or, perhaps, exterminate the Jews, or support a system of slavery. Our contractual obligations are not unbreakable. There are clearly instances where we are required by our own sense of morality and honor to disavow governmental practices, to rebel against them, and to put our personal ideals above the laws of the land. That's why your comparison of public housing (and Medicare) to slavery is so nauseating. Fighting a revolution to oppose slavery is reasonable; fighting a revolution to oppose doling out some prefabricated huts to the homeless is obnoxious.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by GE Morton »

Belindi wrote: January 7th, 2022, 7:59 am
GE Morton wrote: January 6th, 2022, 8:35 pm
GE Morton wrote: January 6th, 2022, 3:45 pm
Well, Belindi, most dictionaries offer liberty as a synonym for freedom, and vice-versa. The distinction you're trying to draw is your own invention.
PS: Belindi, "Liberty" is derived from the Latin liber, which means "free."
I enjoy etymology. I sometimes use a dictionary . These resources are to communication as a canal is to a river. You should attend to Wittgenstein's social theory of language "the meaning of a word is its use".
Oh, I fully agree with Wittgenstein's statement. But since any word can be used in endless eclectic ways, including to mean, a'la Humpty Dumpty, "anything I want it to mean," you have to ask, "Which use?" I'm pretty sure he meant the usual, common, and historical use, such as is given in common dictionaries. After all, unless there is some such common meaning of words within a given speech community, communication would not be possible.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by GE Morton »

chewybrian wrote: January 7th, 2022, 8:22 am
The actual point of this (mostly co-opted) thread is the opposite of what you say.
I agree the thread has drifted pretty far from the nominal topic. Most threads do, because every topic raises tangential issues which bear on that topic, and so lead to discussion of those issues.
Property owners wish the entirety of the country to be built for their needs. No place is left for the homeless to survive where they are not effectively or literally criminals. How do they use the restroom, when restrooms are for 'customers only'? Where do they sleep when public sleeping is outlawed?
In the US the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling a couple of years ago which held that the city of Boise, ID, could not prosecute persons for sleeping/lying on public property unless sufficient shelter beds were available in the city to accommodate everyone who might be arrested for violating the city's "sit/lie" ordinance. Two other circuit courts have issued ruling in similar cases, and ruled the opposite. Nonetheless, SCOTUS last year declined to hear the case. So the 9th Circuit's ruling remains binding on the states in that circuit.

The 9th Circuit's ruling, however, was ambiguous. In one place it says, "As long as the homeless plaintiffs do not have a single place where they can lawfully be, the challenged ordinances, as applied to them, effectively punish them for something for which they may not be convicted under the Eighth Amendment — sleeping, eating and other innocent conduct.” But in other places it says the city may not enforce its law unless sufficient shelter beds are available.

I agree that persons should not be prosecuted for engaging in necessary human activities on public property if there is "no place where they can lawfully be." But a place where they can lawfully be does not have to be a shelter. A city could satisfy the "place to be" requirement by designating an area of undeveloped public property, or acquiring one, as a "homeless camping area," and provide it with running water and rest rooms, perhaps only "porta-potties." Providers of various social services could set up booths or park vans/RVs there from which to offer their services to those interested.

Governments have a constitutional duty to assure that everyone has some place they may lawfully be. They have no constitutional duty to provide anyone with housing.
GE Morton wrote: January 5th, 2022, 9:03 pm First, provide some sound and convincing moral arguments as to why Alfie should provide housing for Bruno, i.e., showing that Alfie has some obligation to do that.
Why in the world would you need someone to explain to you why it is morally correct to feed the hungry?
Well, because you are making a moral claim, moral philosophy is branch of philosophy, philosophy consists of rational arguments for claims asserted, and because this is a philosophy forum. Hence if you assert a moral obligation you have an intellectual obligation, as a philosopher, to provide arguments for the obligation you assert.
Neither is it a head-scratcher to most of us to give reasons that we should house the homeless. Most of us have both empathy and humility, even if the amount of either varies. We both feel sorry for the person in need and admit to ourselves that we may be the one in need tomorrow.
Feelings do not entail moral obligations, and expressions of feelings are not rational arguments for moral obligations.
Here is Adam Smith, explaining that we should tax the luxuries of the wealthy to supplement the necessities of the poor. I imagine you are very fond of Adam Smith when his ideas suit you. Does his reasonableness in this instance offend you?
"The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich . . . . It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

"It must always be remembered, however, that it is the luxuries, and not the necessary expense of the inferior ranks of people, that ought ever to be taxed."
Smith brilliantly illuminated the laws of economics. But as a moral philosopher he was a naif; his moral sentiments were no more relevant or cogently argued than yours.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by EricPH »

At end of 2020, there were 82.4 million forcibly displaced people in the world, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/06/ ... -refugees/

America and Britain have to be responsible for a lot of these.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by Belindi »

GE Morton wrote: January 7th, 2022, 1:46 pm
Belindi wrote: January 7th, 2022, 7:59 am
GE Morton wrote: January 6th, 2022, 8:35 pm
GE Morton wrote: January 6th, 2022, 3:45 pm
Well, Belindi, most dictionaries offer liberty as a synonym for freedom, and vice-versa. The distinction you're trying to draw is your own invention.
PS: Belindi, "Liberty" is derived from the Latin liber, which means "free."
I enjoy etymology. I sometimes use a dictionary . These resources are to communication as a canal is to a river. You should attend to Wittgenstein's social theory of language "the meaning of a word is its use".
Oh, I fully agree with Wittgenstein's statement. But since any word can be used in endless eclectic ways, including to mean, a'la Humpty Dumpty, "anything I want it to mean," you have to ask, "Which use?" I'm pretty sure he meant the usual, common, and historical use, such as is given in common dictionaries. After all, unless there is some such common meaning of words within a given speech community, communication would not be possible.
My lexicon is well within normal usage, GEMorton. You are unaware that the pleasant word 'liberty' has been smeared by right wing politicians.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by chewybrian »

GE Morton wrote: January 7th, 2022, 3:21 pm Smith brilliantly illuminated the laws of economics. But as a moral philosopher he was a naif; his moral sentiments were no more relevant or cogently argued than yours.
This is the response I anticipated.

The problem is that nobody has a basis for any foundation for morality. It begins with desires and fears, and we try to get what we want for the whole of humanity and avoid for them the things we wish to avoid. We think we are doing the right thing, but nobody knows exactly what the right thing is, and my right thing might make you unhappy. It's an extension of the golden rule, but note the subjectivity inherent in the golden rule.

So, tell me what basis you want to use for a foundation, and I can tell you what logically follows. I can tell you if your choices are consistent with the ideas of Jesus or Diogenes or Sartre or whoever. But I can't tell you with authority that it is right to follow the ideas of any of these. I can only tell you which ideas appeal to me best.

You expect me to reply in kind to your ideas with my own perfect and unsinkable model of moral reality. I can't, because I don't think there is any use in any such model. Morality is something we have to hash out all the time. We muddle through and make slow progress, sometimes, toward something that appears superior to the mistakes of the past.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by GE Morton »

Belindi wrote: January 7th, 2022, 3:51 pm
My lexicon is well within normal usage, GEMorton.
You claimed that "liberty" and "freedom" mean different things. The dictionaries say otherwise.
You are unaware that the pleasant word 'liberty' has been smeared by right wing politicians.
No, I was not aware of that. Can you provide some examples?
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by Sy Borg »

Is feeding the hungry a matter of moral philosophy or the very most basic ethics? I would not think it an issue that needs agonising over.

I suppose an environmental case could be made to let people die, but it tends not to be because, if we are trying to save sentient animals, humans are rather high on the list.

Population and inequality may be wicked problems, but that's does not affect the ethical circumstances, of relative rights and wrongs.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by GE Morton »

Gertie wrote: January 4th, 2022, 3:06 pm
Looking back I don't see how my arguments can move you as long as you're welded to the package of postulates you've arrived at, and I don't agree that they have to follow from the foundation which we do agree on. And while individual idiosyncrasies should be allowed for, there are morally significant differences between some needs/desires than others, even if they aren't objectively quantifiable. And imo it's better to imperfectly wrestle with the messiness, than create tidy theoretical lines.
Only the Equal Agency postulate follows from the the foundation ("Fundamental Principle"), because the latter aims to advance the welfare of all agents. The others are free-standing and independently verifiable, logically or empirically. Which one(s) would you reject or question? Here are the ones I mentioned:

* Equal Agency postulate: All agents in the moral field have equal moral standing, which means that all are equally subject to whatever duties and constraints the theory generates, and the well-being of each has equal weight. There are no preferred classes or agents.

* Neutrality Postulate (corrollary of Equal Agency Postulate): The theory is neutral with respect to agent interests, and the interests of all agents have equal weight (since the well-being of an agent consists in satisfaction of his interests).

* Relativity postulate: What counts as a "good" or an "evil," and the values (positive or negative) thereof, are subjective and relative to agents.

* Postulate of Individuality: What are counted as "goods" and "evils" differs from agent to agent.

Again, which would you challenge or question? Note that if you accept the Equal Agency, Relativity, and Individuality postulates, you're logically forced to accept the Neutrality postulate (which is why it's a corrollary).
So if we take homelessness, nearly everybody would feel that having a home is more important to their welfare and ability to flourish, than being able to have their favourite flavour of ice cream, as an obvious comparison.
That is probably true for most people, but is it necessarily true for everyone? Anyone who has actually worked with the homeless would tell you that some of them live on the streets by choice, refuse shelter accomodations, and if offered a choice between an apartment and an ice cream cone --- or a dose of their drug of choice --- would take the drug, and even the ice cream.

But how important a given good is to a given agent doesn't help us with the moral question, which is, May Alfie be forced to sacrifice something he deems a good, and is thus a contributor to his welfare, in order to provide Bruno with something Bruno deems a good? Given that there is no objective measure of value per which goods defined by different people can be compared, how is that forcing to be justified?
Nobody feels a moral obligation to ensure everybody is able to have their fave ice cream based on welfare and flourishing, and nearly everybody feels there is a moral obligation to to sacrifice their shoes to save a drowning child.
That is probably true too. But remember the issue is not how people feel, or even whether there is some (rationally defensible) moral obligation to save the drowning child (as I think there is), but whether one agent may force another agent to do so.
Being homeless will likely affect your physical and mental health, your ability to find and maintain a decent income, may lead to crime, addiction, sex work, and being preyed upon by criminals. Having your kids taken into care, and/or your kids' life chances being harmed. This seems like an obvious case for moral obligation to me.

And if we're serious about it, leaving it to ad hoc acts of charity/generosity is insufficient, we know that.
Why do you suppose it is insufficient? Can we assume that it is because, for many people, the well-being of their own kids outweighs, in their own value hierarchies, the welfare of strangers? That it may be more important to them to continue their kid's piano lessons than to donate that amount to a charity which will provide a meal and a cot for a homeless addict? And possibly also because they do not consider many of the homeless to be innocent victims, but victims of their own poor choices and bad habits? If that is the case, does it not have a bearing on one's moral obligations to them?
So the only objection I see to using taxes, is some in principle objection to ever being forcibly obliged to sacrifice to help another. But if our foundation is welfare based, my sacrifice of a bit more in taxes has a minimal effect on my welfare, and a radical effect on homeless people.
Not everyone forced to pay that tax would consider its impact "minimal." The trouble with imposing taxes to "solve" these problems is that they are indiscriminate, taking no account either of the highly variable and individualized burdens they impose on different taxpayers, or on the personal circumstances and culpabilities of the designated beneficiaries. And, of course, because they force the decisions of a few upon the many, thereby denying the latter the prerogative of making those evaluations and reaching those judgments for themselves, egregiously violate the Equal Agency postulate.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by GE Morton »

Sy Borg wrote: January 7th, 2022, 9:09 pm Is feeding the hungry a matter of moral philosophy or the very most basic ethics? I would not think it an issue that needs agonising over.
There is no "basic ethics" that is not a "matter of moral philosophy."
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by Sy Borg »

GE Morton wrote: January 7th, 2022, 10:14 pm
Sy Borg wrote: January 7th, 2022, 9:09 pm Is feeding the hungry a matter of moral philosophy or the very most basic ethics? I would not think it an issue that needs agonising over.
There is no "basic ethics" that is not a "matter of moral philosophy."
Feeding the hungry is no more related to moral philosophy than it is to biochemistry. Invoking an entire school of philosophy to deal with a simple case of empathy is akin to cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer.

If, say, your nephew was hungry, would you see it as ethical not to feed him if his parents could not afford to buy him food? After all, based on your previous postings, you would consider that feeding him would be worse than pointless, a facile short-term gesture that only encourages dependence in the long term.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by GE Morton »

Sy Borg wrote: January 8th, 2022, 12:24 am
Feeding the hungry is no more related to moral philosophy than it is to biochemistry. Invoking an entire school of philosophy to deal with a simple case of empathy is akin to cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer.

If, say, your nephew was hungry, would you see it as ethical not to feed him if his parents could not afford to buy him food? After all, based on your previous postings, you would consider that feeding him would be worse than pointless, a facile short-term gesture that only encourages dependence in the long term.
Whether I would feed him would depend on the reason he is hungry, and also upon how close was our relationship. If he is hungry because he is a drug user and whatever money he manages to beg is spent on dope instead of food, then no, I would not feed him. Nor if he was a couch potato who preferred to spend his time playing video games rather than working. Nor if he is a nephew who lives on the other side of the country and whom I've never met.

If I had empathy for him, however, then of course I would feed him. But empathy is not rational reason for doing anything, any more than is any other subjective emotional impulse, and certainly not a reason for forcing someone else, who may not feel empathy for that person, to feed him.

What factors should enter into such decisions, and what motives are relevant, are the subject matter of moral philosophy.
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by Sy Borg »

GE Morton wrote: January 8th, 2022, 1:08 am
Sy Borg wrote: January 8th, 2022, 12:24 am
Feeding the hungry is no more related to moral philosophy than it is to biochemistry. Invoking an entire school of philosophy to deal with a simple case of empathy is akin to cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer.

If, say, your nephew was hungry, would you see it as ethical not to feed him if his parents could not afford to buy him food? After all, based on your previous postings, you would consider that feeding him would be worse than pointless, a facile short-term gesture that only encourages dependence in the long term.
Whether I would feed him would depend on the reason he is hungry, and also upon how close was our relationship. If he is hungry because he is a drug user and whatever money he manages to beg is spent on dope instead of food, then no, I would not feed him. Nor if he was a couch potato who preferred to spend his time playing video games rather than working. Nor if he is a nephew who lives on the other side of the country and whom I've never met.

If I had empathy for him, however, then of course I would feed him. But empathy is not rational reason for doing anything, any more than is any other subjective emotional impulse, and certainly not a reason for forcing someone else, who may not feel empathy for that person, to feed him.

What factors should enter into such decisions, and what motives are relevant, are the subject matter of moral philosophy.
Sorry, I should have specified age, my bad. I was thinking of a child. Would you feed him if his parents were drug addicts or couch potatoes?

I am thinking that empathy has to be taken into account rather than seen as a distraction from moral philosophy. Another example, perhaps more helpful (by all means, choose don't feel obliged to answer everything - I don't want to subject you to twenty questions :)

If you live in a tribe of five, if the least productive member is hungry, do you feed him or her?

What of a tribe of ten? Or twenty? Fifty? A hundred? I expect you would know them all, so empathy may well be a factor.

The point being, there will be a group size where you would absolutely help and a threshold where you would start to baulk. Chimps apparently struggle to maintain group bonds in numbers greater than a hundred. Perhaps humans are similar in that respect, with broader bonds being weaker through being more abstract and less visceral (ie. subject to empathy)?
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Re: Is being homeless a crime / should it be?

Post by Belindi »

GE Morton wrote: January 7th, 2022, 8:40 pm
Belindi wrote: January 7th, 2022, 3:51 pm
My lexicon is well within normal usage, GEMorton.
You claimed that "liberty" and "freedom" mean different things. The dictionaries say otherwise.
You are unaware that the pleasant word 'liberty' has been smeared by right wing politicians.
No, I was not aware of that. Can you provide some examples?
"That is taking liberties , young man!" "libertarian" "We are at liberty to spend our earnings as we please."

Your predilection for dictionaries may be blinding you to the meanings of social contexts which may change within an hour.
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